Over a casual lunch in New York City in mid-March, Hurricanes President and General Manager Jim Rutherford sat down with Alexander Semin to talk about his season, whether he liked playing for Carolina and if he wanted to stay.
A week later, on the eve of Semin’s 500th NHL game, Rutherford and the Hurricanes signed the 29-year-old forward to a five-year, $35 million extension, securing him through the 2017-18 season.
“When I knew that I was really in the same ballpark as they were, it was just a matter of negotiating it out over the past week,” Rutherford said in a phone interview on Monday. “Mr. Karmanos has said this is a player we have to resign, and we need to spend the money. He’s given that approval, and we’ve ended up doing it.”
“I love this city. I love the fans. In a short time, I have grown very close with my teammates, coaches and staff in Carolina,” Semin relayed to Canes television analyst Tripp Tracy.
Despite having re-signed both Tim Gleason and Tuomo Ruutu last winter, Rutherford is notably careful of negotiating contracts while in-season. But he knew Semin was a player he wanted to secure long-term before he inched closer to the open market in the summer.
“It’s hard to get elite players in this league, and when you look at Alex’s numbers and compare them to the elite players, his numbers season after season are very strong,” Rutherford said. “It puts an elite player in the lineup for the next five years, and makes a real strong number one line with Eric and Jiri.”
In 30 games this season, Semin has posted a team-leading 22 assists, and he ranks second on the team with 30 points. His plus-18 plus/minus rating ranks second on the team and sixth in the league. The first-line trio of Semin, Eric Staal and Jiri Tlusty has recorded 87 points (35g, 52a) and is a collective plus-55.
In the summer of 2012, Rutherford sat out to secure a top-six forward to complement Eric Staal. He ultimately added two, bringing Jordan Staal into the fold via trade as a one-two center punch with his elder brother and signing Semin as a free agent in late July. It was Semin’s third straight one-year contract and first with Carolina. The Krasnoyarsk, Russia, native had spent his first seven seasons in the NHL with Washington.
“Any time a player comes here, he comes with a clean slate. It doesn’t matter what has happened or what the player has done,” Rutherford said. “When signing him, the expectations were to give Eric a real strong winger and for him to come in and put points on the board.
“We really didn’t know Alex and he didn’t know us,” Rutherford continued. “After a period of time, we saw that he was a good fit for our team, and he has clearly passed all expectations.”
The signing brings Semin into the core of players that Carolina has signed through at least the 2015-16 season, including Tuomo Ruutu, Jeff Skinner, Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Tim Gleason, Jay Harrison and Cam Ward.
Retaining Semin, who possesses an elite scoring touch and unrivaled playmaking ability, helps to solidify the Canes’ roster for the future, especially heading into a more competitive, big-spending division beginning next season.
“I’d say a lot of things are falling into place,” Rutherford said.
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